Loteria de Camacho

Ever since I first visited Mexico, more than 30 years ago, I’ve been fascinated by its culture. It’s beautiful, exotic, alien, yet also comfortable and attractive. One of the things that have intrigued me since the start is the lottery game: loteria de camacho. I’ve seen it for sale in many stores, and played at street vendors and booths at local fiestas. from boxed games to … (more–>)

The Flat Earthers Respawn

While flat-earther might be a metaphor for a certain kid of myopic, political stupidity (think of your local council…), I learned this week that it’s also a thriving online subculture of rabidly pseudo-science wingnuts. A couple of entertaining articles about the flat-earthers appeared on the UK’s Guardian paper site (here and here) this week (and in the HuffPost, too). They surprised, but also disturbed me. I hadn’t actually … (more–>)

Putting Homeopathy to the Test

Homeopathic products often make a lot of outrageous claims. Given that these products are just water, or sometimes water and sugar, anyone with a gnat’s worth of common sense doesn’t believe those claims. Nor are they backed by any evidence. It’s no wonder homeopathy is called the “air guitar of medicine:” It should not be a shock to learn that homeopathy has no basis in scientific … (more–>)

Strategic Planning, Part One: The Woo-Hoo Factor

There are, in general, two kinds of municipal strategic plans. One is pragmatic and practical. It tells you what you need to build, fix or replace, when you need to do it, how much it will cost, and where the money will come from. This is the stuff a council grounded in reality can use to budget, plan sensibly, and maintain the community’s infrastructure. It’s a roadmap … (more–>)

The Continued Rise of Anti-Intellectualism

I dream of a world where the truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true. Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter* Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America, says the headline in this recent Psychology Today story. The subtitle reads: Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason. I wrote about anti-intellectualism as the new elitism back in late 2013. Since then, it seem the … (more–>)

Atheist Spirituality?

Andre Comte-Sponville’s elegantly-written book, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, has occupied much of my thoughts and reading time these past few weeks as I try to grapple with his message. I find I need to re-read sections of it, perhaps more than once, to digest and weigh all of the ideas presented. I’m more accustomed to the polarizing polemics of Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins, and … (more–>)

Ontario’s Assault on Health Care

Earlier this month, the Ontario government took a shot at real medicine when it became the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy. What the government should have done, if it had any real concern about our collective health or our health care system, is ban it. Instead, although it at first seemed an April Fool’s joke, on April 1 the Wynne government announced legislation that will do … (more–>)

Canadian Ambivalence Towards Religion

A new Angus Reid poll underscores the changing, ambivalent nature of Canadian attitudes towards religion, but there are many things about the poll that concern me and make me question its methodology and whether an inherent bias influenced the results. First of all, what is “religion”? That may seem obvious, but there are conflicting definitions, and often religion is used interchangeably with the terms faith and … (more–>)

Lucy and the 10% Brain Myth

We watched the film Lucy on iTunes last night and, while reasonably entertaining, its plot is founded on a persistent bit of pseudoscience: that people only use 10% of their brain capacity. It’s so widespread a myth that Wikipedia has a page on it that opens: The 10 percent of the brain myth is the widely perpetuated urban myth that most or all humans only make use of … (more–>)

It’s Official: Homeopathy is Bunk

“Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds,” reads a headline in The Guardian this week. Well, that’s hardly news. But it repeats saying anyway. It’s a story about the latest in a series of studies that again and again debunk homeopathy as a treatment and conclude it is useless. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) “…thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy … (more–>)

Bad News For Balderdash

A recent story on New Scientist gives a glimmer of hope for those of us who bemoan the swelling tsunami of claptrap and codswallop that fills the internet: THE internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free “news” stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix – rank websites according to their truthfulness. What a relief that will … (more–>)

Marx, Darwin and Machiavelli

What do these three men – three of the world’s greatest thinkers – have in common? Science? Economics? Politics? Their impact on culture and society? Their foresight or insight? Their importance to the development of modern thought? Their continued relevance today? The depth and breadth of their wisdom? The quality of their writing? Yes, they are or have all those things, but the answer is simpler: they … (more–>)

Happy Talk

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBWjNlBko70] A recent study proved an old notion – the Pollyanna Hypothesis – that there is a “universal human tendency to ‘look on and talk about the bright side of life’” according to a team of scientists at the University of Vermont. The story was reported on Science Daily recently. Reading through newspapers, magazines, websites, music lyrics and movie titles in ten languages, the researchers concluded that “probably all … (more–>)

Internet TV and Roku

I picked up a ROKU streaming stick this weekend at the local Staples store to get access to some internet TV. The box advertises 500+ channels, while the boxes for the upscale models 2 and 3 offer 450+ and 1,000+, respectively. However, the official webpage for Roku says you can get more than 1,800 channels in the US on these devices. The Canadian site suggests it’s closer to 1,000 … (more–>)

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